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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Line Pole Polka

Helping to give each street its own personality by using different styles of line poles.
This layout is very rotationally symmetrical (to the order of four!) and features six streets. In an attempt to prevent every street from looking the same so as to give the impression that the street cars are actually going somewhere, each streets "hardware", such as street lamps, telephone poles (or lack of), greenery (or lack of), signage, building architecture, and this case, line poles, are going to be of a different design.

The biggest factor in deciding the style of a pole is the era that its street represents. Refresher: each street represents a different decade, from the 1890s to the 1940s. So here are the styles I have selected for each of the six streets.


Studying old time photos reveal that the earliest line poles were of square milled lumber construction. A lot of times telephone poles doubled as line poles. These poles feature fancy iron work so as to illustrate to the citizens that this is a first class trolley operation that is here to stay and is worthy of your investment and patronage.

But because of the regular spacing of telephone poles and my need for more poles to support the overhead, I added some bracket poles to this street. All the poles on my layout are of brass construction, distressed and painted to look like wood or steel.


By the ragtime naughty "aughts", ornate was on its way out and simpler geometric forms were becoming vogue. This pole reflects that style.


Traction companies started switching to steel poles for the same reason rolling stock construction utilized less and less wood and more and more steel, it was more durable and lasted longer. These poles take advantage of K&S Engineering's telescoping ability of their brass tubes. Just don't get the soft stuff! Painted with (the now defunct) Floquil Light Green and weathered with Bragdon Weathering powders.

 Cities reacted to the fact that the new century turned their streets into a jumble of power, telephone, and trolley wires. Downtown San Diego eliminated telephone and line poles and attached the span wires directly onto the adjacent buildings. Telephone and power lines were buried in the streets, thus clearing the streets and giving a cleaner look. Attaching span wires to my model buildings presents some challenges I'd rather not delve into. So...

 A rather nifty alternative are these double arm boulevard lamps with a trolley linepole extension as seen here in Long Beach, CA. Streetlamps in HO scale have a big problem with being way overscale in order to get them to light. So it looks like I'm going to have to build these myself. A project all in itself!
After fabricating this one from brass, it has become clear that to build the 12 required for the layout would be way too time consuming. 3D printing is an option but the poles would need to be durable enough to stand up to the constant tension of the span wire. Right now I'm favoring the idea of doing a 3D print of a master, and make a rubber mold from it. Then during the casting process, place a brass rod in the mold, add the LED lights, tucking in the wires, and then pour the resin around it all. That might work, right? Yes sir! That might work! Until then, temporary wood dowels are being used as place holders for these lamps on the layout.


Economic Depression. Automobiles taking an awful toll on ridership. An inexpensive, standard wooden bracket pole will suffice.


These poles are patterned after a double bracket pole that was common when linepoles were placed down the center of the street. San Diego favored these kind of poles outside of Downtown. Since the other side of my street isn't there, the other bracket is only present in the abyss!

 So there you have it! I hope you like. I've tried making these linepoles every bit of an interesting model as the streetcars. Yes sir! Every bit of an interesting model as the streetcars!